A Washington Post article on a Chinese company that is making very high quality fake IDs and selling them to American college students and credit fraudsters suggests to me something about the future of privacy: We are in a identification technology arms race between elaborate identity faking and identity verification capabilities. The inevitable result: less privacy. Less anonymity.
To the naked eye — even the practiced eye of most bartenders and police officers — the counterfeits look perfect. The photo and physical description are real. So is the signature. The address may be, too. The holograms are exact copies, and even the bar code can pass unsophisticated scans.
If drivers licenses were only rarely and poorly faked then police and financial institutions would have much less incentive to, for example, deploy biometric scanners to verify identity. But since the capabilities of the fakers and deceivers keep growing and the amount of identify faking and theft grow as well an escalating response by the verifiers (e.g. bar bouncers, bank tellers, police) is a foregone conclusion.
When will bartenders start scanning drivers licenses and taking pictures of patrons to upload to an ID check database on the web? Will pictures be insufficient? Will young people need to get their fingerprint or retina scanned every time they enter a club? How soon will this change come? Will banks start asking for a fingerprint or retina scan when you sign up for an account?
What's the technologically fanciest form of ID check you've experienced to date and where did it happen? Are defense contractors the biggest users of biometric ID technology? Or do other industries lead the way in use of cutting-edge means to identify who enters their premises?
Update: With so many pictures of people up on the web facial recognition technology will make it easy for you to identify anyone you see.